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Historians in the Laboratory: Art and Science in Early Modern Europe

Historians in the Laboratory: Art and Science in Early Modern Europe
91 Charles Street West, Alumni Hall
Time: Mar 14th, 4:00 pm End: Mar 14th, 6:30 pm
Interest Categories: History (FAS), Historical Studies (UTM), Historical and Cultural Studies (UTSC), 1500-1800
Lecture by Pamela Smith, Columbia University

The Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies is pleased to present

Historians in the Laboratory: Art and Science in Early Modern Europe

The empirical techniques of experiment and observation employed in the natural sciences since the Scientific Revolution have important origins in the accurate description and eyewitness practiced by Renaissance historians and in the creative labors of Renaissance artists' workshops. But since the seventeenth century, these shared origins have been obscured, and the divisions between the natural sciences and the arts and humanities have become ever wider: Scientists work in the lab; historians work in libraries and archives. Studying the pre-modern artist's workshop provides an opportunity for the historian to enter the contemporary laboratory. Drawing on techniques from both laboratory and archival research, this lecture crosses the science/humanities divide and explores the intersection of historical and scientific research, and considers our changing conceptions of the relationship between science, art, and the humanities.


Pamela H. Smith is Seth Low professor of history and founding Director of the Center for Science and Society at Columbia University where she teaches early modern European history and history of science. She has published books and articles on early modern European artisanal knowledge and culture, and is now directing a collaborative initiative, The Making and Knowing Project, to reconstruct the knowledge of early modern craft from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including hands on work in a laboratory.
Her books include The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire (1994); Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science and Art in Early Modern Europe, (ed. with P. Findlen, 2002; The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (2004); Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400-1800 (ed. with B. Schmidt, 2008); Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge (ed. with A.R.W. Meyers and H. Cook, 2015); and The Matter of Art: Materials, Practices and Cultural Logics c. 1250-1750 (ed. with C. Anderson and A. Dunlop, 2015).

The lecture will take place at Alumni Hall in Old Victoria College.

Tea will be served from 4:00 p.m., and the lecture will begin at 4:15 p.m.

This event is free and open to all. Registration is not required. For further information, please contact the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at (416) 585-4468.

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